Friday, October 3, 2008

Creepy Crawlies

I'll be the first to say it: I dislike bugs.

I don't want to squish- let's say, a cricket that kept my husband and I up all night- so I shooed it outside.

However, the bugs in Israel are not all cute crickets. Jukim- Israeli flying cockroaches- are the worst of the bunch, with mosquitoes, flies, vinegar flies, worms, caterpillar worms, moth larvae, and fruit fly maggots continuing the list.

My friends complained to me just last week that all their apartments are infested with ants, so at least I'm spared one plague.

When I first moved in, my apartment was already stocked with food by wonderful people, and so I thought I would have it easy.

Needless to say- Eretz Yisroel Nichnas B'Yissurim- Israel is only attained/allowed access to through travails.

The pantry, and room which the food was kept, was infested with moths. Not just a few, or a dozen, but hundreds of flying moths, with their cocoons and larvae.

Say it with me folks- UGH!

My valiant husband along with the chesedik (kind) neighbor kids headed to do battle with the formidable foes.

Thank G-d, after much squishing, washing, cleaning, and generally pesachdiking that room, the moths were gone, with mothballs and cedar wood in their place, to prevent such an occurance again.

Only in Israel- right?!

On the bright side- there are the special mitzvos (commandments) that we can perform with bugs. What might those be? Well, bug checking!

Jews are forbidden to eat any creepy crawly, no matter what size or shape (besides for locusts, and only certain kinds, which Yemenite Jews have the tradition to eat) .

In Israel right now, it's the Shmitta year, which means that Jewish farmers don't work the land at all, or grow any produce. All produce that naturally grows by itself- for example, fruit trees, are considered ownerless, and can't be sold by Jews.

So, where do Jewish people get their food from? Well, there are a couple alternatives (it would be hard to list all halachos (laws) of shmitta in one post- so I recommend the English comprehensive book Gateway to Shmitta, which contains all the halachos of shmitta in a very accurate form.

I buy produce usually from stores that have a hechsher (Rabbinical certificate that the food is kosher) from the Badatz- which only buys produce from non-Jews- namely, the Arabs in Israel.

On the bright side, no one goes without food during Shmitta year anymore, as they used to in the older years in Israel.

On the down side- Arabs are completely organic farmers, no pesticides or any other weed/bug killing items allowed. So, enter bug checking.

I decided to take a class about learning where to find bugs, and how to check produce for them.
Needless to say, the class is eye opening. If you ever want to know how much bugs are in food- just read R' Veie's book on bug checking (only in Hebrew- sorry!). The pictures will blow your mind.

It's amazing how these little bugs go to so much effort in camouflage in order to survive. There are phenomenal pictures- like the one with 3 peppers, one red, one green, and one yellow. In each, a worm is shown- the exact color of the pepper. Simply amazing- and a little creepy too!

Almost everything can get bugs in it in Israel- from necessities like flour, or spices, to vegetables and fruit, and even fish! Who knew?!

So cooking now has an extra challenge, but it's rewarding in the end.

If anyone has any questions on how to check food for bugs, feel free to post in comments, or just read one of the many books on the subjects. R' Falk has a book, R' Veie- as previously mentioned, and several websites are devoted to the subject.

Alright- must dash- my vegetables are awaiting checking! Be'tayavon- or Bon Appetite!


AidelKnaidel said...

welcome to blogosphere! I have just stumbled upon it- thanks for the comments first off- and I have to say kudos. Nice job so far.

I too just moved to E'Y, and just got married. Its a big change, no? I feel like we share something- and I hope to read lots more of your posts!

As for bug checking- hehe- sifting flour has become one of my enemies. Now I hesitate to make anything that calls for more than 2 cups of flour.

nmf #7 said...

Oh, for those interested in not sifting flour- there is frozen/refrigerated flour pre-sifted sold at many stores: ex: the Maayan 2000 in Sanhedria.
But, you would have to refrigerate/freeze it once open- giving up precious freezer space.

stam said...

crazy, here in the North East of good ol' USA we also have the 'pantry moth' (grain moth, a million other names for them too) problem. Growing up i never even heard of such things! Now i store whatever I can in our freezer (we bought a chest freezer because we have the "out of town" need to stock up on EVERYTHING) and our pantry is full of pheromone traps and bay leaves - the bay leaves also supposedly keep them away. of course, they return every year, usually around pesach.